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What Is A Tray Ceiling?

By Lianne Jones July 07, 2022 0 comments

In many homes, the ceiling is the most overlooked surface of a room.

When it comes to home decor, we spend far more time thinking about the perfect color for the living room wall, or which rug would tie your bedroom together.

Other than fitting the right light fixture, we put little thought into our ceiling’s design. However, the ceiling can be a key focus point of any room if you want it to be.

What Is A Tray Ceiling?

Having a tray ceiling is one example of how you can add something extra to the interior design of your home.

Also known as an inverted ceiling, a tray ceiling features a center that is higher than its edges.

If you’d like to know more about this eye-catching design feature, we have everything you need to know about tray ceilings and how you can install one at home.

What Does A Tray Ceiling Look Like?

A tray ceiling often follows the contours of a room with a drop-down border around its perimeter.

The center part of a tray ceiling can be anywhere from one inch to over a foot higher than its border, depending on the height of the room and an individual's personal preference.

While most ceilings are square or rectangular, tray ceilings can also be constructed on one that is non-traditionally shaped, such as circular.  

Style Variations

Your standard tray ceiling is made with dimensional lumber to form a drop-down border and then wrapped in drywall.

Some choose to tape and finish the drywall without a trim for a minimalist look, while others add corner molding to conceal the seams that are visible where the drywall meets. 

Tray ceilings can be tailored to your specific taste, be it simple and modern, or grand and ornate.

Crown molding can be added to the inside borders of a tray ceiling for an elegant look, and you can make this molding as large as you wish for a dramatic element.

You can also conceal accent lights with a tray ceiling so that it is softly illuminated to draw the eye, while also muting the light intensity for a cozier room.

A tray ceiling is also a great way to accentuate a stunning chandelier in the room if you’re going for something more lavish.

Color is also significant for styling a tray ceiling.

You can achieve a great look by painting the recessed part of the ceiling one color and the drop-down border another color, either one that is a contrasting or complementary shade.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to color variation for a tray ceiling.

What Is The Purpose Of A Tray Ceiling?

Believe it or not, a tray ceiling can be functional, not just attractive. In older properties, ducting is often run on one side of the ceiling for a vent system.

This results in a bulk header on just one side of the room, creating asymmetry.

With a room that’s high enough, a tray ceiling can conceal this design flaw by matching the dimensions of the bulk header. 

A tray ceiling also has the ability to camouflage other installations in its drop-down border, such as electrical wiring, or plumbing.

This is a great option for homes that don’t have the structure to run these important connections through the walls.

Tray ceilings are also a brilliant way to create the illusion of high ceilings, opening up a room and making it feel less claustrophobic.

What Should I Consider Before Installing a Tray Ceiling?

Tray ceilings that are already installed during the building of a house are likely to be constructed within the joists of the ceiling.

This means that the border surrounding the tray ceiling should be the same height as the ceilings in the other rooms, while the center part of the tray is higher.

This stops headspace from being affected during installation.

When installing a tray ceiling in an existing room, it’s important to consider ceiling height as a factor.

The drop-down border of a tray ceiling reduces headroom, so it is best suited for ceiling heights of more than eight feet.

Most building codes require eight feet minimum height for a ceiling as standard, so bear in mind that the drop-down border of a tray ceiling will extend below it, making the room feel smaller and cramped.

You should consider headroom before making the decision to install a tray ceiling, as it can alter the perception of spaciousness in your home.

How Do I Install A Tray Ceiling In My Home?

Recessing a tray ceiling into an existing ceiling requires modifying the ceiling’s joists or trusses.

This should only be done after consulting a structural engineer with the expertise to determine if your ceiling is structurally sound.

You also need to obtain the proper permits for altering the structure of your home. This is a job only for professionals.

If you have enough ceiling height to install a drop-down tray ceiling, the process is much simpler than recessing an existing ceiling.

You just need to construct the drop-down frame of the ceiling border, which is then covered in drywall and can be finished if you wish.

With carpentry knowledge, this might be a project you can undertake yourself.

You can also create the illusion of a tray ceiling if you don’t want to go through the complex building and the permits needed to create it.

You can install a fake tray ceiling yourself by attaching trim molding to the ceiling and then painting the center of the ceiling a darker color than the outside border. This creates a three-dimensional effect, like that of a real tray ceiling.

Final Thoughts

A tray ceiling is a statement in itself, but there are ways to tailor it to your home decor.

Minimalist or grand, the tray ceiling is a great way to bring variation to two-dimensional space and can be customized with color and molding to suit your taste.

With a tray ceiling, you can open up any room and make a brilliant focal point.


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